Real-time hybrid testing is an experimental technique for evaluating the dynamic responses of structural systems under seismic loading. Servo-hydraulic actuators, by nature, induce inevitable time delay between the command and the achieved displacements. This delay would lead to incorrect test results and even cause instability of the system; therefore, delay compensation is critical for stability and accuracy of hybrid simulations of structural dynamic response. In this paper, a dual delay compensation strategy is proposed by a combination of a phase lead compensator and a restoring force compensator. An outer-loop feed-forward phase lead compensator is derived by introducing the inverse model in the z domain. The adaptive law based on the gradient algorithm is used to estimate the system delay in the format of parametric model during the test. It is shown mathematically that the parameter in the delay estimator is guaranteed to converge. The restoring force compensator is adopted to improve the accuracy of experimental results especially when the structure is subjected to high frequency excitations. Finally, analytical simulations of an inelastic SDOF structure are conducted to investigate the feasibility of the proposed strategy. The accuracy of the dual compensation strategy is demonstrated through several shaking table tests. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.